Amitayus - Buddha of Limitless Life

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Buddha Amitāyus or Buddha of Limitless Life is a Buddha aspect or a deity associated with meditations and mantras for a long life.

Amitāyus is in Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna considered another form of Buddha Amitābha, Buddha Amitāyus.

The major Mahāyāna sūtras describing Amitāyus are the small and large Sukhāvatī-vyūha where he is teaching beings in the Pure Land of Amitābha, and the Amitāyurdhyāna sūtra.

Amitāyus and Amitābha - often both names are used interchangeably.

The more specific sūtra on Buddha Amitāyus is the Ārya Aparamita Ayurgyena Nāma Mahāyāna Sūtra or the Great Vehicle Sutra of Unfathomable Exalted Life and Transcendental Wisdom,

although it is more like a hymn proclaiming the merits and virtues of Amitāyus and giving us the long mantra of Amitāyus.

Amitāyus is usually depicted seated in a meditation posture with a vase (kalaśa) in his hands, which contains the elixir of immortality (amrita) and leaves of the Aśoka tree:

It symbolizes a long life without the misery (śoka) of disease. On top of the vase can be an alms bowl.

When we speak on Amitāyus, Limitless Life refers to his blessings and virtue, while Limitless Light refers to his wisdom as Amitābha.

Blessings, virtues and wisdom of Amitāyus are limitless and so are his spiritual powers, his attributes and his teachings.

The smaller Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtra defines why he is named Amitāyus:

Moreover, Śāriputra, the life of that Buddha and that of his people extends for measureless, limitless asaṁkhyeya (uncountable) kalpas (aeons); for this reason he is called Amitāyus.

And Śāriputra, since Amitābha realized Buddhahood 10 kalpas have passed.

Amitāyus Buddha

The Amitāyurdhyāna sūtra is concerned with quite another matter:

It is a guide to practice and describes a series of 16 meditations which lead to various grades of transformational rebirth in the Pure Land.

Prince Ajātaśatru being enticed by the villain Devadatta threw his parents into jail in order to ascend the throne.

Queen Vaidehi prays to the Śākyamuni Buddha for help, and lamenting the torture in Jambudvīpa, she expresses her wish to be born in a place free of hatred and sins.

Śākyamuni Buddha went on to tell the Queen in detail how to be reborn in the Pure Land of Amitābha Buddha.

 Amitāyurdhyāna-sūtra was preached at the request of Vaidehi, queen mother of the wicked Prince Ajātaśatru:

My only prayer, she continued is this:

O World Honoured One, could you preach to me in detail of all the places where there is no sorrow or trouble, and where I ought to go to be born anew.

I am not satisfied with this world of depravities, with Jambudvīpa which is full of hells, full of hungry ghosts (pretas), and of the brute creation.

In this world of depravities there are many wicked communities.

May I not hear, I pray, the voice of the wicked in the future; and may I not see any wicked person!

The Buddha caused all the Buddha-fields to appear before her and let her choose among them. Vaidehi told she still wish to go to the Pure Land Sukhāvatī.

Thereupon the Buddha instructed her in meditation suitable to bring about rebirth in this land:

He taught her the following 16 visualizations, which can bring realization of one of the 9 stages of rebirth in the Pure Land, according to the karma and effort of the individual:

contemplation of the setting sun; of water; of the ground; of wondrous trees; of healing waters; of the blissful world of wondrous trees; of the earth and water;

of lotus thrones; of the forms of the 3 sacred ones (Amitābha, - Avalokiteśvara, Mahāsthāmaprāpta); of the corporeal form of the Buddha Amitāyus;

of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara; of the bodhisattva Mahāsthāmaprāpta; of Amitābha in the blissful realm; of the middle and lower classes of birth.

These visualizations permit the practitioner in this lifetime to see Amitābha and his companions Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta. This is interpreted as sure signs of rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitābha.

Statue of Buddha Amitāyus

In Tibetan Buddhism we have 3 major Amitāyus mantras, used to pray for a long life and healing from disastrous diseases like cancer and similar:

Long Version:

NAMO RATNA TRA YAYA / OM NAMO BHAGAVATE / APARIMITA AYUR JÑANA / SUPINISH CHITATAYE / JORA JAYA / TATHAGATAYA / ARHATE SAMYAK SAM BUDDHAYA / TAD YA THA / OM PUNYE PUNYE / MAHA PUNYE / APARIMITA PUNYE / AYU PUNYE / MAHA PUNYE / AYUR JÑANA / SARVA RUPA SIDDHI / AYUR JÑANA / KE CHE BHRUM / OM BHRUM / AH BHRUM / SVA BHRUM / HA BHRUM / CHE BHRUM / OM SARVA SAMSKARA / PARI SHUDDHA DHARMATE / GAGANA SAMUDGATE / SVABHAVA VISHUDDHE / MAHA NAYA PARIVARA YE SVAHA

Secret Mantra:

Om Tadhyata Aparimita Ayu Jnana Hrih
Hung Dhrum Soha

Short Mantra:

Om Amarani Jiwantiye Soha

 It is worth to note, in the Tibetan Amitayus mantras above "amaraņa" comes from "a-"(not) + "maraṇa"(dying) i.e. "immortal" and "jivantaye" comes from "Jiva"(living, existing) and "jivantaye" means "one who is alive (living)".